A couple of weeks ago I was browsing through Netflix, and I stumbled upon a show called Black Mirror. The first episode was so intriguing I managed to binge watch the whole season in one weekend. The show is an anthology series that illustrates the uneasiness and sometimes negative effects of technology. I felt uncomfortable at times while watching this show because some of the themes seemed scarily relevant to today’s technological world. It really makes you think about what the future holds. There are two episodes that I found particularly interesting, Nosedive and Shut Up and Dance. I felt that these episodes were a depiction of the scary side effects of social media and technology in today’s world.
Nosedive takes place in the not-so-distant future where the act of “liking” on social media extends to everyday life. People walk around glued to their phones and every interaction with another person results in a rating. These ratings divide people into a class like system. People with higher ratings are treated better than people with lower ratings. For example, the main character, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, arrives at the airport to find out that her flight has been cancelled and that her rating isn’t high enough to get her onto another available flight. Howard begins to raise her voice in disagreement and makes a scene which causes the people around her to give her poor ratings. Throughout the whole episode she tries very hard to please everyone and put on a fake, happy front to get positive ratings. The one time she acts honestly and says what’s on her mind she gets reprimanded for it. I think this is very relevant to social media today. People are constantly attached to their phones. I know I fall victim to this all the time. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do Is check Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. When I see my phone light up with a notification, my first instinct is to immediately check it. On Instagram, people carefully choose the right photo, filter and caption in hopes of receiving positive feedback from followers. If you post something controversial, there is the possibility of negative feedback and the loss of followers. Social media allows people to show the snippets of their lives that (they think) are pleasing to everyone else, and to gain some sort of approval. It’s also easy to make judgements based on the number of followers someone has. For instance, if you’re looking for a specific account to follow (food, fashion, humour etc.), you’re more likely to follow the accounts with the most followers. If an Instagram or Twitter account has few followers, it’s easy to negatively critique it.
Shut Up and Dance takes place in the present day and tells the story of a chain of people being blackmailed by am unknown group of hackers. These hackers dig up dirt on everyone through difference platforms like e-mail, and in the case of the main character, webcam. The hackers make demands via text and can track their every move via GPS. If the demands are not met, they threaten to reveal their secrets. Kenny, the main character, is sent on a wild goose chase involving a bank robbery, and a duel between another man being tormented by the hackers. If he does not abide by the rules, some unforgivable acts caught through his webcam will be revealed to everyone online. This episode is a very plausible depiction of the dark side of technology that we see today. Hackers do exist and have the ability to seize control of computers. For example, when the website Ashley Madison was hacked, many of its members were blackmailed by demanding compensation or their spouses would be informed of their infidelity. It’s also common to hear about celebrities Twitter accounts being hacked. When Katy Perry’s account was compromised, hackers posted offensive, racist tweets. A lot of times hackers post spam, but sometimes they can post things detrimental to someone’s reputation.
Social Media, and technology itself has brought so many positive things to the world. That is why it’s easy to overlook the negative aspects of it. Many people get so caught up in having the most likes and the most followers, that it becomes hard to know what’s authentic about a person. When it comes to privacy, it’s common to hear about company websites or celebrity social media accounts being compromised. However there are many cases of ordinary people getting hacked everyday, it just doesn’t make national news. Social media is something we can appreciate but we should also take caution with it. Even though Black Mirror is a fictional show, it was a bit of a rude awakening for me. There is some honesty and reality behind these episodes that reflect today’s society.